• Expert By Experience

My Body & Mind: From Pieces To Peace

Written by Shuranjeet Singh

For the majority of my life I have felt somewhat detached from my physical body. Almost like a squatter, I have never considered my body as anything more than a temporary residence: a source of shelter and resources necessary for my continued existence. My body never felt like a home, despite the fact that it is all I have ever known. Growing up, I watered and fed my body in the way any kid does: I compared and contrasted my body, bemoaned my body, and fell out of love with something that still seemed so, so distant.

Life experiences and one dickhead in primary school also made me believe that my body, the thing I felt so disconnected from, did not meet the standards imposed on us by society. I began to resent it, cover-up, slouch, look downwards. I loved swimming but slowly stopped. I was happy that we had school uniform that was simple, muted, and soft.

At school I played several sports, mainly as a part of a team. I flung myself into each activity and, whilst playing alongside my peers, I felt like a limb of a large system; working, synchronising and driving towards victory. Individually, I still felt disconnected from myself but this was temporarily lifted when I played with friends as a larger, cohesive organism.

Following school, I transitioned into new routines, some good but most bad. My disconnection from my body had spread to my entire Self. My mind and body were split between home and university. It was like attempting to play a 4-way video game on your own. Socialising became difficult but studying and my housemates kept me going. I loved studying, maybe because it provided a much-needed distraction from everything else happening at the time.

During university I started to make some changes to try and lift myself out of what was a pretty shitty slump. The first thing I did was buy a year long gym membership. I went around 4 times over the course of 12 months. Harsh lighting and walls of mirrors ensured that the focus was on my body, but this feeling of disconnection would not go away, it only intensified. I felt distant from the activity I was pursuing and from the reflection I saw in the mirror.

It was like trying to dance with someone you hate.

Two years ago, I started Taraki - a community-based initiative to support and educate within the Punjabi community about mental health. Even after starting Taraki, I am only beginning to feel that I am in a process of healing and mending my relationship with myself. Recently, I moved to Toronto and shortly afterwards joining a Gymnastics class. I found myself attracted by the small class-sizes, the grace of the sport, and the possibility of developing some new skills.

There are no mirrors, no harsh lights and lots of failure. However, every session has felt like more than just physical exercise, it has felt like couples therapy for my mind and body, time to sit, reflect and rebuild what has been a historically distant connection. I feel in a much better place mentally and I think I have moved from a life in pieces to a life at (some level of) peace.

I feel as though my mind has ‘accepted’ my body and the two are dancing more seamlessly than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, there are still points at which they fall out, but I think and hope that their relationship has improved and continues to improve into the future. Gymnastics focuses on the individual, it forces you to meet failure head-on. My class is also devoid of ego; everyone is there to learn and support one another, but ultimately they are engaging in an internal battle to meet physical and mental goals.

Bouncy floors, dangling hoops, parallel bars, and 1980s bangers: I did not think that this would be the setting where my body and mind would sit, chat, and grow together for the first time in my life.

I no longer feel as detached as I once did. I no longer view my body as separate from my mind, or soul. It’s been a very strange, introspective and difficult process, but I think I am finally making my physical house a home.